Minutes after hearing that the four 121-metre long Meko A200SAN frigates operated by the South African Navy (SAN) were the “perfect ships for our type of coast”, MPs were told the rough seas had irreparably damaged an engine on one of the warships. This will now have to be replaced at a cost of R16 million.
Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on the frigates, Teuteberg said the “starboard propulsion unit on one of the frigates is broken. An investigation subsequently discovered a shortcoming on an underwater exhaust valve, the South African Press Association reports. “We believe this to be a design shortcoming, but particular to the sea states we operate in. It happened when the vessel was rolling excessively and therefore the pressure changed as the exhaust went down. And there was water ingress… to the engine, [which] damaged the crankshaft of this engine,” he said.
The discovery of the faulty valve had led to an investigation of the Navy’s three other frigates. “An… engineering change was done in order to improve the closing of the valves under extreme conditions,” Teuteberg said.
Earlier, he told members South Africa had got “the best value for money ever” when it bought the frigates from Germany, SAPA reported. “They are brilliant. At sea they are capable, they’ve got long legs, they’ve got speed when you require them, the sensors work beautifully… I tell you, perfect ships for our type of coast.” Teuteberg said the damaged frigate – which he did not name – would need a new engine. “A new engine will cost us R16 million. We have to remove the [damaged] engine and replace it. We have the necessary money, and we’re ordering the new engine.”
The operation would involve cutting open the vessel’s hull, in what he described as a “major evolution” set for next year. The frigate was currently operational, propelled by its port engine and gas turbine-driven water jet, but confined to coastal waters. “We would not send her beyond that,” Teuteberg said.
The ships are fitted with a CODAG-WARP (COmbined Diesel And Gas turbine-WAter jet and Refined Propellers) propulsion system conisting of a General Electric LM 2500 gas turbine delivering 20,000kw (26,820 hp) and two MTU 16-valve 1163 TB93 diesels, each delivering 5920kW or a combined 11.84mW (16,102 hp). It is one of these latter machines that have been damaged.
The class was acquired for R9.6 billion as part of Project Sitron,a component of the controversial Strategic Defence Package signed on December 3, 1999. The contracts became effective on April 28, 2000. The Amatola arrived in South African waters in November 2004, the Isandhlwana in February 2005, the Spioenkop in May and the Mendi in September 2005.